In my last post I wrote about the power of having a compassionate inner dialogue between our eating disorder voice, or any inner critical voice, and our Healthy Self or Soul or Higher Self voice. And as I was writing that post, it inspired me for what I wanted to write about today.
As I was writing last week I was reminded about how hard it is to have that positive self-talk dialogue if the eating disorder or inner critic feels like an enemy....then, what often comes out is what therapist Carolyn Costin calls the Executive Self rather than the Healthy Self.
The Executive Self may talk back to the eating disorder or inner critic, but it won't be with compassion and understanding but rather with anger and maybe even hatred, turning the inner critic or eating disorder into an enemy.
And it can be so hard for something to be heard, understood and thereby gradually transformed if it is not met with at least some compassion or understanding, as hard as this can be....
This is where trying to cease making an enemy of that side of us is so important...because I believe the eating disorder or inner critic is trying to protect us and keep us safe in the best and only way it knows how. And only when it can be heard and understood, rather than angrily told to go away, will it stop fighting to be heard so loud and so often. And only then can that gentle inner dialogue take place where we can begin to learn from the eating disorder or inner critic and thereby gradually learn how to meet the needs it is providing for us in new and healthier ways.
When I was attempting to listen to and stop hating my eating disorder, something that really helped me was beginning to see it as a worried, scared parent.
I imagined that it thought it knew what was best for me and was trying to protect me from myself and how I'd mess up my life if I didn't take its advice.
It felt to me like a parent who is so hard on their child, demanding they get accepted into an Ivy League school and get perfect grades even if the child might not want to. Not because the parent enjoys seeing their child suffer but because from their perspective this feels like what is genuinely necessary for the child's future happiness and safety.
I realized the only way to get my inner scared parent to let me live my life was to make sure its intentions felt heard and appreciated, and to then prove to it that I was okay, I didn't need their help to find the happiness and safety it wanted for me....
I could trust myself, and find happiness on my terms. I just had to prove it to them first, time and time again, to gradually get them to trust me and then quiet....
And it gradually worked.
Dialogue after dialogue with it, year after year, of tuning into my Higher Self/heart/intuition, and acting from there, and thanking and reassuring my eating disorder/inner critic/perfectionism that it was okay, I could find my happiness and safety without its help, gradually it began to trust this too, and leave me alone....and I deeply believe this will happen for you too.
Two books which helped me a lot with this work (you'll probably notice me mention these books a lot) were Self-Compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff and Nonviolent Communication by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. I write briefly about how these books helped me here.
- What are all the ways you can think of that your eating disorder, inner critic, perfectionism, or however it shows up for you is trying to help you?
- What might it be providing for you?
- And can you think of any new ways to try to begin providing this for yourself so that your eating disorder can gradually not be needed?
With so much love,
Sarah Rzemieniak is passionate about helping people recover from eating disorders and body image issues. Sarah previously worked as an eating disorder dietitian before recognizing that her true passion was in the coaching and counseling aspect of the work. She then became a certified eating disorder recovery coach through The Carolyn Costin Institute, where she was supervised and trained directly under Carolyn Costin, world-renowned eating disorder therapist. Sarah recovered from her own eating disorder, which fuels her passion for this work. She provides individual coaching in Victoria, BC Canada and online worldwide.
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